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BWW Interview: Christina Bianco On Her Debut Album LIFE OF THE PARTY

BWW Interview: Christina Bianco On Her Debut Album LIFE OF THE PARTYWe caught up with YouTube sensation Christina Bianco to talk about her crowdfunding campaign for her debut album - and get a video sneak peek...

Tell us a bit about your debut album Life Of The Party

People have asked me for a long time why I haven't released an album ,and I didn't have an answer anymore. At first, it was because I wasn't sure anybody wanted one or I wouldn't know what to do in my own voice, because people know me for impressions... Then it was just timing, so this year I said to heck with it - it's long overdue!

It's been a great year of travelling, talking to people and choosing material for the album that I thought would be fun. Mostly stuff people would have heard or that represents me and what I do, with singing half the shows in my own voice and half impressions. I tried to put feelers out there to see what people wanted and what sort of music they liked me singing.

In April we recorded the live album in London, which was really fun. It was a little bit stressful for me, as I hadn't played that venue before, and we were putting a lot of instruments and a lot of sound tech on that stage - plus we learned that very first performance that I don't do well when I have to stand in a small box.

I kept forgetting what I was going to say and became so inarticulate. I move and talk at the same time, so I'd move my hand and hit the bass player behind me. My tea was on somebody else's table and I was so self-conscious about that.

I don't think there's any dialogue from the first night we recorded, because I sounded pretty certifiable, but the singing was good and the music was good, so I know we have great material for the album.

People always say things like, "Why don't you play this city?" or "Why don't you have an album?". It's a very nice surprise when people show up, because it is a big world with lots of talented people out there.

For me, this year, it's been a great validation of what I do. I've been able to go to places like Australia and it's been fab to roll into these cities and countries and have different people from all over come and fill a room. So now, when I go to these places, it's going to be great to share an album, rather than just leave and not know when I'm coming back.

Why did you choose to record the album in London?

All of the stuff that has happened to me in London has been really special. London is my favourite city - it was the first international city that opened its arms to me. I've made so many friends, and one of them is my long-time music director, arranger and pal Joe Louis Robinson. There are few music directors in the world that I love the way I love him, and as we've built the most shows together, it made sense to do this album with him.

Doing it in New York would have been great, and I would have had a lovely true family audience, but having it in an international city really sums up what I've done and what I want to continue to do: to reach more and more people.

Is the album split between your own voice and impressions the same way as your live shows?

Yeah, it's just like the regular shows, and that's why I wanted it to be live. The live album captures the energy and the playfulness that exists in a Christina Bianco live show. The performer that I most closely base my shows off of would be Bette Midler.

Bette Midler's concerts are filled with so many colours. She'll come out and sing something brash and belty and then she'll do a comedy routine, come out in a Mermaid costume and do something a little ridiculous - then nobody bats an eyelid when she comes out in a gown and sings "The Rose" and "Wind Beneath My Wings". She's one of the few artists that I think pulls off those jumps between genres successfully.

People who've come to see my shows over the past five years that I've been touring internationally - that seems to be what they like about my shows. I wanted to try my best to capture that, so I have to be a little silly and a little serious and do some of my impressions and in my own voice. It's a pretty eclectic album.

Can you tell me anything that's on it, or is it top secret?

The thing I think people will be most excited about is for the first time ever I'm doing a true heavily constructed diva mash-up of the song that put me on the map - "Total Eclipse Of The Heart". I performed that number everywhere for about a year and a half after my YouTube video went viral.

My favourite performance that I did of that was on the Paul O'Grady Show for Bonnie Tyler. The way we did that song on the video was just to have the regular accompaniment of the song and have me change voices.

Now, I'm working with these great musical arrangers, and we find it fun to change the style of each line. Not even a whole verse, just little phrases - so within one vocal line you may hear Shakira with a Latin beat, and a little Edith Piaf that sounds like a march. This version is a total revamped diva mash-up, unlike the one you'll have seen already. I wouldn't have an audience for this album if it wasn't for that song.

We also took a little bit of a risk and arranged a version of the song "Santa Fe" from Newsies. That song is almost exclusively sung by a man - some people know the musical version of the song better than the movie version, but I'm a Newsies film girl. When I told Joe I wanted to do it we changed the song a bit to make it fit me and what I do. I like to put in new things, so hopefully everyone will enjoy it, and I definitely wanted to include a Disney song on the album.

Is it difficult to create a setlist that lets you try new stuff out but also pleases an audience who want to see things from your viral videos?

It is hard, and I think its one of the reasons I include so many medleys in my show. I would do Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger" every day because I love it, but I listen to old recordings now and I think they sound horrid! You have to do things in front of an audience to get better at them. I might do an impression that I don't think is that well-honed, but you have to do it to get an audience response and to improve.

I like to do new things and I know that my returning audience likes to see new things. You have to strike a delicate balance. I always try to listen to my audience. I did a Facebook Live on Tuesday and people were suggesting things that they'd like to hear. You can't do everything people ask, because it might not suit the show and I have my own vocal limitations.

In interviews and Facebook Live, you tend to be asked a lot of the same questions - is there anything you would like to be asked less?

People always ask me if any of the people that I impersonate have seen them and I want to be like...Google it! I've been asked so many times. Mind you, the answer can change. Two years ago I couldn't have told you the story about Kristin Chenoweth.

You have to remember though that, as it is with live entertainment, I might be doing the same show eight times a week, but the audience is new and they're seeing it for the time. So most of the people that I'm speaking to haven't gone online and Googled all of my past interviews. You just have to smile and say thank you and deliver the story. It's a good thing I'm Italian, because I can talk a lot!

Is there anything you would like to be asked more about in interviews?

I like it when people ask me questions about how I use my voice. There are a lot of mechanics involved. Not just in rehearsing and practising the impressions, but for performing onstage in different venues. An impression can go over so well in a particular room with a full band and the perfect amount of reverb, and I could do the exact same thing in a room with a piano and a much smaller group of people and it won't come across in the same way.

I would love to talk more about that, because I'm learning every time I play a new venue what works and what doesn't. I'm learning how to speak to the people who are running sound. When you walk into a new venue, you need to live in the space for a little while before you perform yourself.

And maybe even watch someone else's show to see what it sounds like when the venue is full. You can spend an hour or two hours at sound check setting the sound for your show, and it's pointless, because as soon as the audience comes in the sound changes!

It's a comedy routine, particularly for somebody like me who's singing in 80 to 100 voices during a show.

What sort of stuff do you listen to when you're not researching for a show?

Considering I grew up doing all musical theatre, I pretty much never listen to musical theatre. I love going to see it and being in it, but I don't listen to it unless it's old school.

For the first real time in my life I've been going to the gym, so I've been listening to peppy workout music. I love funk and Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Prince. I love that soul, funk, pop, R&B stuff. I don't listen to the radio. Every time somebody talks about a new song I have to look it up, and that's how I stay current.

I think most of it comes from living in New York City. I don't drive to work and when people drive they tend to put the radio on. I'm such an old-school soul the radio stations that I do listen to are like the bottom of the list that has jazz and swing. I really listen to the music I perform - I love the Forties and Fifties.

I love finding what other people are listening to and giving it a shot. I'm not aware of what the hit song is until it's already a hit - and trust me, I'm OK with that!

What perks are available as part of your crowdfunder?

Crowdfunding campaigns are always difficult, because there's always going to be someone that says "Oh, it's so tacky to ask for money". We can all find backers and do it ourselves, especially when its a live album, which is so much less expensive than a studio album. But one of the reasons you do this is to engage the fans and make them feel included.

Anything we get goes right back into the album and making it better - not just for us, but for you guys. It was very important for me to offer a wide range of perks. The most popular perk is the celebrity outgoing voicemail message [clip at the bottom of the article!] where I will record exactly which impression you'd like and send it to you.

A lot of people just want to pick your brain and ask questions ,so I'm offering that in a Skype interview. At a lower price point I'm offering Instagram interviews, where it won't be live but I'll answer questions and sing song clips - and everybody can see it to make it a little more special.

The more grand version of that is sitting down with me over coffee in New York or London. It's funny, because you think "Who's gonna want that?!", but people have already written to me and told me they want it. It used to be when you performed you just did the show and went home, but now it is so much about the social interaction.

In addition to downloading the album there's an option to get a little USB stick with other stuff as well. There are bonus tracks and I have so many of my live performances recorded, funny photos and lots of extra tidbits and demo recordings that you'd really have to search online to find!

The crowdfunding is not only to raise money for the album, but to raise awareness and get people excited about it.

You have a London album launch in October - is that a one-off date?

I wish I could tell you about the other dates I'm doing that month... I don't want to say anything until it's completely confirmed.

And you're here for the Stages festival cruise too?

It's going to be ridiculous! So many musical theatre fans on one ship together. It was an honour to be asked and I'm the only American. I'm so excited to be with Beverley Knight, Michael Ball and Lee Mead - to be anywhere near that line-up.

It's a five-day cruise and I'm doing something every night. On the first night, there's a variety show I'm doing with everybody in the main theatre. After that, there's another big theatre and I have another show in a more intimate theatre, and a sort of dinner show one too.

They really put you in a variety of rooms so that everybody has an opportunity to see you. I don't expect anybody to come and see me the exact same time as Michael Ball is performing, but if they've seen him the night before, they can maybe see me the next night!

Visit Indiegogo for more details on how to get perks as part of the LIFE OF THE PARTY crowdfund

Watch a video sneak peek below!



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From This Author Natalie O'Donoghue